What Is Vulkan And How To Enable It On Dota 2

If you’re an avid Dota 2 player and closely follow all news related to Valve’s celebrated MOBA, you must have come across more than one mention of the new Vulkan API in recent updates. Unless you tend to stay abreast with advancements in the world of graphics rendering APIs, you’re probably still wondering what that’s all about. What is it exactly, and what does it have to do with the game? Read on for our attempt at defining Vulkan and its purpose in simple words, a guide on how to enable the API on your Dota 2 installation, and why you’d want to do that.


What is Vulkan?

To understand what Vulkan is, you first need to be familiar with the API acronym. An API (or Application Programming Interface) is a set of virtual components using which a piece of software can be built or a collection of tools that can be used to add certain capabilities to existing software. Ever heard of DirectX? It’s a Microsoft-owned collection of APIs, some of which are used by most modern games to render 3D graphics.

Another popular 2D and 3D graphics rendering API is OpenGL, which is managed by the Khronos Group – a consortium formed by the likes of AMD, Nvidia, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Valve and several other companies. The Vulkan API is basically the next step in the evolution of OpenGL, and Khronos Group’s answer to DirectX. The cross-platform spiritual successor to OpenGL is based on AMD’s Mantle API, and claims to offer higher performance at lower CPU usage compared to its competition.

If you’re wondering why you hadn’t heard of Vulkan before now, it’s most likely because it is very new. The API was announced at GDC 2015 and is yet to be adopted by games at large. To our knowledge, the only game that supports Vulkan as of this writing is Valve’s Dota 2. In what follows, we explain how to enable Vulkan rendering for the game.

How to Enable Vulkan Support on Dota 2

Before we dive into the “how,” let’s explore the “why,” as promised. Earlier, we mentioned that the Vulkan API promises higher performance at lower CPU overhead, which could mean that enabling it on your Dota 2 installation could yield more fps (frames per second) for a smoother in-game experience. We don’t have any stats to support this claim yet, but there’s no harm in finding out for yourself.

Here’s what you need to do to enable Vulkan rendering for your copy of Dota 2.

1. Make sure your graphics drivers are up to date.

2. Launch the Steam application and log in.

3. Switch to the Library tab or select Games > View Games Library from the top.

4. Right-click on Dota 2 and select Properties.


5. Switch to the DLC tab and enable the Dota 2 – Vulkan Support downloadable content.

Dota 2 Vulkan Support DLC

6. Wait for Dota 2 to update, then switch back to the General tab, select SET LAUNCH OPTIONS.

Set Launch Options Dota 2

7. In the dialogue box that follows, enter “-Vulkan“, remove “-dx9”, “-dx11” or “-gl” from any existing launch options you may have and click OK.

Vulkan launch options Dota 2 Steam

That’s all there is to it! Your game should now use Vulkan rendering the next time it is launched. You might see glitches and artifacts in the rendering or experience hiccups in performance the first time you run with Vulkan support enabled. These should resolve themselves after you watch/play a match or restart the game.

Have you been playing Dota 2 with Vulkan support enabled? Did you experience any significant upward shoots in performance? Let us know in the comment section below!

Sameed Khan

I write, game, design at times, and revel in sarcasm. You can find me on Twitter.